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Priority on Prevention

15 October 2010

Legislation due to come into force in December will place specific requirements on businesses to reduce waste. Colin Malcolm explains the detail and implications for facilities managers.

FOR THE FM SECTOR, waste is one of many core day to day responsibilities, although in many instancies the scope does not extend beyond administering intermediate storage and off-site transfer. This compliance-driven function requires an up to date understanding of waste law, but has not traditionally addressed initiatives that deal with the prevention or minimisation of waste at source. However, new legislation due to come into force in December 2010 will place specific requirements on businesses to reduce waste, and this will directly affect the facilities management sector.
The prudent use of raw materials and waste reduction is fundamental to all business as it is tied to operational and financial performance.
Waste prevention is also a key element in business’ environmental management programmes and the correlation between waste reduction strategies, environmental improvement, cost savings and operational efficiency is well documented.
For many years the extent to which most businesses have addressed prevention or other waste reduction strategies has been voluntary, with widely fluctuating levels of commitment.
Whilst waste legislation directed towards preventative measures is not altogether new, it has characteristically been aimed narrowly and at individual waste types and sectors. However, changes to waste legislation will bring mandatory requirements for waste minimisation to all businesses.
The second stage consultation on the revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD) closed last month. The first stage consultation was completed between 16 July and 9 October 2009 and the Directive must be transposed into law in England and Wales by 12 December 2010. The revised WFD has a very broad scope but of particular interest to the FM sector will be Article This introduces a new five step waste hierarchy that Member States are required to apply as a priority order in waste prevention and management legislation and policy.
New draft legislation – The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 – has been issued as part of the stage two consultation process to address several parts of the revised WFD, including Article 4. The draft Regulations place a requirement for waste producers and holders to provide a declaration certifying they have taken the waste hierarchy into account; this will be incorporated by adding a declaration notice to Waste Transfer (non-hazardous) and Consignment (hazardous) Notes. The Regulations will amend Section 34 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990, and revoke The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 insofar as they apply in England and Wales.
The priority issue in the waste hierarchy is prevention; hence it would appear inevitable that FMs will need to work more closely with building occupiers to understand how these
principles have been applied to the wastes before overseeing off-site transfer. This provides a good opportunity for the sector to show leadership in developing practical and
partnership based waste minimisation solutions; providing their client base with technical support, environmental performance improvement and cost reduction services. Waste is a significant cost to business, and therefore measures that can reduce costs will be very appealing, particularly in the present economic climate. Most businesses undervalue the cost of waste by only accounting for disposal costs, whereas the true cost of waste is typically around ten times this figure when raw material, energy and labour costs are taken into consideration.
The waste hierarchy is a succession of five waste management techniques. Waste prevention is the priority and is followed by preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery and disposal. Meeting the requirements of the waste hierarchy means addressing waste management issues firstly by preventative techniques, and then by each successive step in turn. A point to note, however, is the draft Regulations identify that there are certain wastes where following the waste hierarchy does not always result in the most favourable environmental outcome. In these instances alternative approaches can be taken where this is justified by life-cycle thinking.
Feedback from the revised WFD consultation process has highlighted that many businesses do not always have a practical understanding of how to implement the waste hierarchy, and, to address this, DEFRA has published guidance to support business in understanding, interpreting and implementing the waste hierarchy. Separate guidance has been provided for non-hazardous and hazardous waste streams, and this will be updated regularly to reflect current best practice and emerging technologies.
Waste carriers
The draft Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 will also change the requirements for waste carrier registration. The new requirements, which stem from a 2005 ruling by the European Court of Justice against the Italian Government, will require waste carrier registration for business that normally and regularly transport waste, regardless of whether that waste is produced by them or others.
Currently, businesses carrying their own waste, with the exception of construction and demolition waste, are exempt from the requirement to register as a waste carrier. A two
tier system has been proposed, with the top tier consisting of professional waste carriers, who will be subject to controls similar to the existing regulatory framework, while the lower tier will consist of the additional businesses that carry waste normally and regularly and were previously exempt. In order to try and minimise additional regulatory burden on businesses who meet the lower tier requirements, DEFRA has proposed that registration will be by a one-off process, supplemented by a long lead-in time and a compliance deadline by the end of 2013.
Waste-related offences currently account for the highest percentage of Environment Agency fines (2008 data), while new civil enforcement options available through The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 will provide greater flexibility to regulators in dealing with non-compliance issues. As the example (left) illustrates, significant penalties can be imposed on businesses that are in breach of waste legislation. This highlights the direct financial implications through court fines that can result from breaching waste law plus negative publicity, damaged reputation amongst key stakeholders, and reduced success rates on tender submissions and other business development strategies.
There are several other consultations and policy reviews regarding waste currently underway, which will be relevant to the FM sector. DEFRA is also currently consulting on placing restrictions on the landfilling of certain wastes, and this provides a good insight to the future direction of waste policy. ‘Consultation on the introduction of restrictions on the landfilling of certain wastes’, a consultation document issued jointly by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government in March 2010 primarily addresses the different measures available to limit recyclable and biodegradable wastes from landfill disposal. This consultation also brings into focus the intertwined relationship between resource efficiency, landfill disposal and climate change. Methane emissions from landfill account for 40 percent of the UK’s total methane emissions and 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Imposing further restrictions on the landfilling of biodegradable and recyclable waste would therefore be an additional measure available to the Government in meeting its short-term legally binding target of a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.
At the end of July 2010, the new Coalition Government announced that it was to undertake a thorough review of waste policy in line with its commitment to move towards a ‘zero waste’ economy. Preliminary findings are due to be announced in the spring of 2011 and it will be of particular interest to all businesses how these findings will shape future policy. The Government has also recently announced its intention to promote voluntary responsibility deals as a means to better management of business waste. Drawing upon recent successful examples such as the Courtauld Commitment on grocery retail packaging and food waste, businesses can expect nonregulatory measures to form part of the Government’s overall strategy for improving business waste management.
The FM sector should not automatically feel overburdened by the planned changes to waste policy and legislation. The financial savings associated with waste minimisation programmes are well founded, and the proposed policy measures may well provide a natural entry point for the sector to promote additional environmental and cost saving efficiencies within its portfolio of services.
Increasing stakeholder interest towards business environmental performance also provides opportunities for the FM sector to show leadership, promote good practice and to align business plans with an increasingly environmentally conscious market. The commitment at both UK and European levels to use legislative powers to move business towards more sustainable waste management practices will continue. Organisations should embrace many of the changes as they represent a genuine opportunity to reduce costs and improve environmental performance. 
 ● Colin Malcolm is Principal Consultant – Environment, Workplace

Case study: A Northamptonshire-based chemical company pleaded guilty before Towcester Magistrates to two charges of accepting waste without holding a waste management licence, contrary to Sections 33(1)(b) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The company was fined £30,000 by Towcester Magistrates with costs of £1,900. Most of the waste came from a second company, which admitted taking waste to the site on at least 22 occasions while failing to check whether the site  held a waste management licence. The Magistrates fined the company £12,000 for six offences of failure of duty of care under Sections 34(1)(c)(i) and 34(6) of the Environmental Protection Act. It also failed to provide a full written description of the waste.

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